From the Chairman: Losing valuable people?

Jan 02, 2015

A test of your staff’s commitment to you so you know what to fix.

Architects and engineers are seeing increased activity in the marketplace and firms are hiring. This is not news to most of you, I suspect. It certainly is the case with the firms I’m working with today. In fact, some firms have a voracious appetite for additional talent and are aggressively poaching from other firms. How secure and committed to your firm are your employees? I’ve frequently mentioned the Gallup book, “First Break All the Rules” and am reminded daily of the pertinence of their 12 key questions regarding workplace moral. Their message is simple. If your people answer yes to these 12 questions, they are “deeply committed” to their work, and by extension, deeply committed to the firm that they are a part of. Here they are:
  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work? (Do my team members have clear job descriptions, and clarity around projects, tasks and expectations?)
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right? (Do they have the resources they need to succeed in their role?)
  3. Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best everyday? (Do you have people in the right jobs, where they can use and build on their strengths?)*
  4. In the last 7 days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work? (When was the last time you praised the individuals in your team? If it wasn’t in the last week, it’s not regular enough. People crave recognition – your role as leader is to encourage and cheerlead your team.)
  5. Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person? (Do you know who your team members are as people, not as employees?)
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development? (Do you provide opportunities for your staff to learn new skills and feel like they are moving forward?)
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count? (People leave managers, not jobs. What structure do you have in place for your team members to provide their feedback? And do you listen when it’s given?)
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important? (Do your team members know how their role fits into the bigger picture?)
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work? (Are you letting poor performers set the standard or are you encouraging people to lift the bar? The standard your walk past is the standard you set. Good performers can be demoralized if poor standards are accepted in others.)
  10. Do I have a best friend at work? (Are you providing opportunities for your team to grow supportive relationships at work? Work is a big part of their lives, so it’s vital for people to have fun and friendship.)
  11. In the last 6 months, has someone talked to me about my progress? (Are you providing regular reviews and feedback to help people with a sense of direction at work?)
  12. This last year, have I had the opportunity at work to learn and grow? (Are you providing opportunities for advancement?)
I’ve used these questions with firms I’ve worked with to help leaders determine how well they’re doing. Buy the book, use SurveyMonkey to poll your staff, and you’ll learn very quickly how vulnerable you may be. If anyone who is part of your leadership team thinks this is nonsense, perhaps it’s time for new leadership, because people who answer yes to each of these questions are simply not interested in going somewhere else. Environments that foster a culture built around each of these ideas won’t easily be found elsewhere. If your people know that it is your intent to build your firm on these principles, they’ll also be more likely to explore what it’s like in the firm that’s trying to lure them away. * I also highly recommend another Gallup book titled “Now Discover Your Strengths,” which elaborates on point 3 above. Edward Friedrichs, FAIA, FIIDA, is a consultant with Zweig Group and the former CEO and president of Gensler. Contact him at

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